Pussy Riot: Some of you won’t even say their name

I’ve been watching the saga of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot since the arrest of its key members,  Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, in early 2012. A few months ago, the fiancee and I watched HBO’s documentary on the group, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. I was moved not so much by the music; I never have been. Punk music  has never really been my thing, but the determination of these women in the face of a government that told them they weren’t acting like ladies-and then arrested them for it-is definitely my thing. And so are their lyrics.

And I’m happy to see some progress on getting Tolokonnikova and Alekhina finally released from prison, though part of me still has a “wait and see” attitude. They could be-and likely will be-freed due to a new amnesty law. But these women have been through hell; they were arrested for hooliganism, and though Samutsevich successfully appealed her arrest, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have been subjected to terrible prison conditions, with Tolonnikova going missing for 21 days following an open letter she penned in prison. And they both have young children who’ve missed 2 years of living with their mothers because of their actions.

I hope that those children will see the bravery of their mothers. I’ve encountered some folks who don’t understand why these women would go to such great lengths, why they would risk arrest in a country like Russia, to perform music. But that’s folly. What they did was started a revolution. They wrote and performed something that now the entire world (quite literally) is hearing, seeing, and reacting to. Performance art has rarely gotten so much attention. It has rarely been so dangerous.

 

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    1. I love that one, too, although I’m really not a big fan of punk. Something about the style of the music just doesn’t really suit me. I prefer softer sounds, as they rein in my anxieties. But the riot grrrl movement is something that fascinates me quite a bit. Although I’ve largely changed my dissertation/comps project, I’m still super-interested in new feminist movements and girlhood, as well as how we’ve reattached ourselves to the concept of the girl instead of just the woman.

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      1. I think Amy Poehler set a lot of the neofeminism in motion with the smart girl series. Once she got open about feminism starting young and constructively, other media began following the cue. For instance, the new movies coming out of Pixar are celebrations of autonomy and pass the Bechdel test with flying colors, which is such a welcome change from Disney movies of yore.

        Punk is super aggressive. If it weren’t for Bikini Kill and L7 I wouldn’t have such an affection for it. The grrrl power part is what made me a fan and one which endures to this day. So basically All Hail Kathleen Hannah~ hahaha.

        I’m watching the documentary now, so thanks.

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        1. Yes. I like the Bechdel test, though I think it has limitations. It’s a good starting point for conversations about male-dominated work, for sure, and about how we expect females to perform, even in fiction.

          I was working with girls’ studies, which is something you might be interested in, too. It’s a relatively new field, an interdisciplinary one, that looks at girlhood as something separate but connected to womanhood. It asserts that feminism has traditionally looked at girlhood only as a vehicle to being a woman, and that that ignores important parts of how we become women.

          And you’re welcome. I loved the documentary.

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  1. I agree, — while the price has been high for the two in particular, it was a very effective way of getting the world’s attention. I am glad there are courageous, intelligent young women like these in this generation.

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